Collective Consciousness – Emerson

The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man,–present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters,–a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The American Scholar

How can man be satisfied with his day’s work when he cannot complete even one whole part to a working puzzle? The over-efficiency that plagues our world right now deprives man of the ability to connect to the finished product, to the consumer using the product, to his audience, to the reader. To those who feel they are made for something more, that there must be more to life than this work, they are right.

I was recently talking to a man who grew up in West Virginia, in the mountains. In the evenings, his neighbors would get together with their various instruments, voices, dancing shoes, and together would have a nightly convening of their talents. They would work together to make beautiful music, but also a community with a sense of wholeness, a rich environment for children, a sense of continuity for the elderly, and a place all could call home. I asked whether he joins in these festivities when he visits home. He told me that since the popularization of air conditioning and the internet, these get-togethers no longer take place. At all. What a heart-wrenching tale of the breakup of a community, a separation of a whole into individual parts, unable to sense the collective heartbeat any longer.

Good news – we’re humans. We need this connection. Sooner or later, we will tire of this trend toward isolation. Personally I’m rooting for a breakdown of all technology  that leads us back to an barter-based agricultural economy. But that’s the lazy way. The right way requires hard work, advocacy, and good parenting at the community level. I’ll work on mine, you work on yours. 🙂

Naomi Wolf- Dangerous Writing

Author Naomi Wolf gave a keynote address at Columbus State Community College today as part of an ongoing seminar. Though not currently a student, writer, or seminar-goer, I felt drawn to it after reading a brief bio of this bright and inspiring author.

The address was given as part of a writing conference, but it was largely focused on advocacy. From mild surprise at hearing the C-word to a notebook full of excellent tips, it was engaging and well worth my time.

The most interesting point was the need to find your voice before you can become a writer who will affect any kind of change, and the fact that it will not be easy; in fact, it may be risky or even dangerous. From blogging all the way back to editing my high school yearbook, I’ve always thought of writing as a way to please, inspire and entertain. I’ve always considered what family would think about my writing, how it fits into my perceived sense of self, etc. Imagine… me, rocking the boat!

So. The things I care about: the earth, health, nonviolence and civil disobedience only when necessary, kindness, equality, ending hunger, anti-corporation in favor of a village life dynamic, mindfulness of how we affect others, rejecting society’s proposed categories and requirements for different types of people, reconnecting members of society to one another, limiting or eliminating technology, rejecting society’s views altogether in favor of positive social change, leading those who would seek to enact social change so they do not act on anger, damage their causes, or alienate others (Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King). Now you have that to look forward to.

Perspective, Balance, Meditation

Seven years ago, my husband was stationed in Hawaii. He was in the military though he wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I was fighting against my pacifist background to tolerate military life. As newlyweds, we enjoyed the freedom we had to make a new life for ourselves, to have our weekends free, to be far away from social pressures we experienced at home. Two years in, he was done with the military and we were shipped back home to Ohio. Jobless, homeless, living with a family member temporarily, I felt rootless, like a maple tree helicopter twirling and twirling down toward the earth, prey to the slightest breeze. Up until that time, I had never experienced a financial crisis, and the sensation took me completely by storm. While Robert felt now was the time for a little relaxation before we started “real life” again, I fretted over being uninsured, having to depend upon another for shelter, and the perceived shame of having failed at life. During this time, I had to take meds just to be in control of my anxiety. I found a job and was able to get off the meds quickly.

Years later, because of said job, I was back on them along with a sleep aid. While I didn’t have adverse reactions to either, I felt a certain shame at not being able to handle life’s troubles. I wanted to move on, but I didn’t feel I had the skills to handle my stresses alone. As I waned myself off of these meds, I found replacements for each. Melatonin for sleep, St. John’s Wort for a reassuring feeling. These gave me the feeling of outside support, and probably acted as placebos more than anything else.

Off meds and in control, I knew I needed to tackle the root of the problem: caring too much about what others think, and worrying too much about life’s what-ifs. I began to read self-help books and found almost every one I read extremely helpful. I think the most important element to my success what that I was open to improvement, I felt desperate for guidance and therefore did not judge or doubt the advice I received. Through this, I discovered meditation.

Most people I know who don’t already meditate tend to shut down when I mention the word. Surprisingly, it is occasionally still thought of as hocus pocus, pagan practice, the work of the devil. These people must picture me contorted and speaking in a strange language, practicing evil magic.

I’ve also noticed that it is best mentioned when someone is actually coming to you for advice; unwanted advice is rarely put into use.

But meditation is simply the intention to focus your attention, quieting the mind. From observing your breath to chanting “ohm,” there are good reasons and good benefits to each type of meditation. It has helped me tremendously. In some way, guided meditation is comforting to me just because I am able to listen to a calming voice, and I put some amount of trust in that voice.

The other day, a friend was struggling with a romantic relationship, wondering how best to handle her situation. An hour later, she was ruminating over the same several factors that we had discussed. Her mind could not break free from this cyclical thinking, and she would likely be up all night in the same manner. I suggested she Google guided meditation and make an effort to get some perspective on her situation. After all, she has a choice over how her life will progress, she is not being persecuted or abused, and her basic needs are being met.

Surprisingly, she was open to the idea. To me, this is how God sometimes affects positive change in our lives. A conflict is brought about which forces us to assess ourselves and seek outside help or make a concerted effort to improve. Whenever I have trouble sleeping, I step away from the situation and ask, what is out of balance? A day or two later, I discover something was out of balance – whether I was not being mindful enough of the blessings in my life, or wasn’t allowing enough time for decompression at the end of the day, I needed to make a change to find my inner quiet again.